From Nani's Notes: "Nothing gives you a better day on Halloween than a good hair day. Make sure you use a lot of 'scare-spray.'" The fear factor of Halloween was not normally my forte. Ghouls, goblins, bats, black cats and bloody scary stuff never appealed to me. When I was about 12 years-old, I broke my tailbone tripping over a "dead body" wannabe while tentatively navigating a spook alley. What did suck me into the Halloween odyssey was the fun of parties and trick-or-treating. In my youth I hosted a memorable Halloween party. The guests were blindfolded and lead up and down a few stairs and put their hands in different potions such as "Eyeballs a la Slime – otherwise known as grapes in raw eggs. Of course, the versatile, oiled spaghetti was "Fried Brains." The finale was a real "fear factor" stunt. Blindfolded guests were led outside into the dark and coaxed up a few steps to a platform. Then with a gentle shove, the guest fell onto a large homemade trampoline. As they lunged into the unknown, horrified shrieks could be heard all through the neighborhood! When the blindfolds were removed the laughter and fun also resonated the area. Everyone rushed to repeat the fun.
My earliest memories of Halloween were hearing my mother sing a song from her childhood – "Jack O'Lantern." Popularized in 1909 these gentle lyrics (by Hough and Adams) and catchy tune played repeatedly in my mind "You're my jolly old Jack O'Lantern and I love the merry twinkle in your eye." In my ringlets era, I was invited to perform for a large civic group at their Halloween extravaganza. Diligently, I prepared a rather complicated dance with a papier-mâché pumpkin on my head. When the curtain went up and my music began, a bit of stage fright crept in and I lost my confidence. My mother motioned for my older sister to dance in front of me and instructed me, "Just follow your sister." Ever tried to dance with a "pumpkin" head? Peering through two tiny eye holes, I could barely see the dim light right before my eyes. My sister dancing on the side of the stage was out of my radar. At the end of what seemed like the longest dance on record, the gracious audience cheered. It was the first time I had choreographed my own dance by making up the new moves for the steps I couldn't remember. "Necessity is the mother of invention." I had learned that "the show must go on!" My sister gave me a never-forgotten tongue-lashing for not following her. My version of an old Indian proverb is, Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins or danced three minutes with a pumpkin on my head."
It seemed like trick or treating was safer and costumes less frightening back in the olden days; neither were there razor blades or needles found in candy, soap obscenities scribbled on windows, toilet papered yards or egg throwing. In the "good old days, some homes required a magic trick or other talent to get a treat. Good performances were rewarded with high end homemade treats. Once while trick or treating out in the dark without adult supervision, fear gripped our hearts as we tentatively sneaked past "the kidnapper's house." It never occurred to our band of cautious children that if it really were a known hole-up for kidnappers, the perpetrators would be in jail.
The long-held practice of going door-to-door asking for handouts took on a lot more fun when we had a costumed band of our own little boys and "ghouls." One year we walked with friends down the street. One of those friends sadly revealed that it would be her last time to take her children treat or treating. Soon after that, she left her two little ones after being ravaged with cancer. We never know what lies ahead so every opportunity to share experiences with our loved ones should be treasured. We may not pass this way again. She didn't. Their beautifully appointed home stood stoically empty. Dad quit his job and moved the kids near their Midwest grandparents. We were forced to find new friends to do our Halloween walking ritual with. If this were the last holiday (or any day) we could spend with those we love, what memories would we want to create? What stories would we treasure?
We usually took treats to deliver to the neighbors we "trick or treated." Sometimes we'd dress up to accompany the children on their excited rush around the neighborhood. Once when I really decked out in Halloween garb that totally obscured my identity, we decided to knock on the door of a new move-in. Forgetting my wild appearance I said, "Welcome to the neighborhood. We live around the corner." He never came to visit!
The aftermath of trick or treating was almost as much fun as the hunt and gather process. Sharing the spoils and counting the Dum-Dums was a subculture in itself. Full-size candy bars brought shrieks of delight, along with non-food treats like MONEY! Another mother friend laments that there is a proverbial candy clean-up brigade at her house. "Halloween candy wrappers last until Easter basket grass which lasts until Halloween."
Another fun family time was going to school and cheering for our costumed kids in the annual Halloween parade around campus. One inventive son donned a good likeness of President Nixon. That's pretty scary to some, although his Nixon's indiscretions were nothing compared to today's political antics that apathy allows. One of the best costumes our children contrived was being the Wizard of Oz lion character. She just blew-dried her gorgeous, curly tresses upside down and didn't even need a wig. Interestingly, we often take on the personality of the characters we costume for. When hiding behind a mask, we become the consummate actors. With the expert make-up artistry of a big sister, one of our boys looked more like Darth Maul and Darth Maul. It was fascinating to see this gentle giant take command of his light saber and own the character for a Halloween event. No one could believe it was our quiet, scholarly son. Perhaps assuming the characters suggested by unique costuming is why most little girls seem to want to dress-up like princesses. It's an opportunity to wiggle into the skin of an alter-ego.
One amazing Halloween experience was working on the film "Hocus Pocus." Our children were trick or treat extras and ran around a California neighborhood trick or treating for goodies they were not allowed to eat. One child wore a gold kimono that my husband had purchased in Japan for our firstborn. Topped with a gold crown and professional makeup, he was the most visible in the dark. There were some big stars in the film but the only one our children wanted to be photographed with was the person that treated them kindly. Nandi was a production assistant that became their fast friend. Thus,their keepsake photo was taken with this laid-back, "unknown" young black girl that treated them as equals – equal to the stars. They preferred to remember kindness rather than rich and famous snobbishness. Thankfully, they were untarnished by "Hollywood" and reserved worship only for God.
What's up? A full moon. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” – Psalm 19:1